Return to Transcripts main page

New Day Saturday

Government Shutdown Continues; Trump Stays in Washington While Lawmakers Go Home for the Holidays; Federal Employees Worry About Finances Due to the Shutdown; Jermaine Massey Asked to Leave Hotel, Claims Racially Based; EPA Changes Policy on Coal; "Love, Gilda" to Air on CNN; Michelle Obama Tops Most Admired Women Poll. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired December 29, 2018 - 08:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is "New Day Weekend" with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Good Saturday to you. Overnight the EPA became the latest government department to shutdown, telling its 14,000 employees to stay home.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HOST: The agency responsible for keeping America's air and water clean and free of hazardous chemicals stayed open the first week of the government shut down, but overnight the money ran out and more than 800,000 government employees now currently out of work or reporting to work with no promise of a paycheck. On Twitter the president blamed democrats for the partial shutdown which is now in its eighth day, even though he said in the Oval Office he'd own it. So looking past the bickering between republicans and democrats, the livelihoods of more than 800,000 are threatened here and that's what it comes down to. It's not just about the numbers, it's about the people.

BLACKWELL: Real people who need that money and they need it on a day they were depending upon it. CNN's Ryan Nobles looks at how the shutdown is impacting the federal workers who suddenly find themselves without a reliable income.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With President Trump unable to secure funding for his border wall.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can tell you it's not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they'd like to call it. If they don't have it then we're just not opening.


NOBLES: The government shutdown will likely continue into the new year affecting an estimated 25 percent of the federal workforce; 380,000 employees are furloughed and another 420,000 are still working without pay including the TSA. The Smithsonian museums and National Zoo will be closing its doors January 2nd and even the panda live stream camera is going dark. (BEGIN VIDEO)

TRUMP: These federal workers want the wall.


NOBLES: The president said on Christmas that federal workers support the shutdown but the shutdown is causing families we spoke to, many who live paycheck to paycheck to worry about when they may see their next one and they're fed up.

LOREEN TARGOS, AFGE LOCAL 704 UNION MEMBER & STEWARD: I two mortgages to pay and so I haven't even looked at how my checking account is going to balance out. I don't even have children. For people who have kids in school, extracurricular activities, putting food on the plate for their kids, those are all things that make it even more disgusting what's happening with the federal government right now.

NOBLES: Loreen Targos is a local steward in a public sector union and a physical scientist with the EPA which shut down Friday at midnight. She, like other EPA employees, received this e-mail referring employees to the office of personal management for additional guidance.

The OPM Thursday Tweeting suggestions for workers to send to creditors, landlords and banks if they can't make their payment on time, like trading maintenance work like painting and carpentry for rent payments.

TARGOS: That's absolutely unrealistic. Federal workers are going to be penalized for not paying their bills on time when we just want to go back to the jobs we were hired to do.

NOBLES: Thursday the president Tweeting most federal employees are democrats but workers say their politics shouldn't even matter.

TARGOS: We are civil servants. We're hired to do our work at the EPA. Our workers are hired to protect human health and the environment. If he wants to imagine that we are democrats instead of us being human beings and civil servants, that's his problem and I hope Congress is able to step up and be the adult in the room.

NOBLES: Ryan Nobles, CNN, New York.

BLACKWELL: Well republicans are ending their lock on power in Washington having really failed to deliver on President Trump's top campaign promise, building that wall on the U.S.'s southern border with Mexico.

PAUL: CNN's Boris Sanchez is with us now from the White House. So President Trump, we understand not budging from his demands but is there any insight this morning Boris, into who he may be talking to trying to negotiate with. Is there something going on?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey good morning Victor and Christi, no indication so far this morning that the president has had discussions with any democrats about a potential solution to the shutdown. Last night the president had dinner at the Vice President's residence here in Washington, D.C. He was joined by Vice President Pence, his incoming Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and his son- in-law, Jared Kushner. The president not traveling to Mar-A-Lago with his wife, the First Lady, Melania who is spending the New Year's Eve holiday there.

Officials here at the White House telling us that the president is sticking around the Nation's Capitol until the government reopens, at least that's the plan right now. And there's really no new ground between these two sides. Mick Mulvaney yesterday speaking with reporters essentially told us that all the cards were in Nancy Pelosi's hands. He's trying to make the argument that Pelosi wants this shutdown to secure the votes that she needs to become the next Speaker of the House.

Of course, CNN's reporting contradicts that. From our count she had the votes to become speaker well before the government shutdown. Still Mulvaney says that democrats likely won't talk about a deal until after she's sworn in as speaker on January 3rd.


On the democratic side, democrats have promised that after they take power on that day they're going to vote on one of three measures to reopen the federal government none of which include any funding for the president's border wall so it's unclear if those measures will get very far especially in the Senate and obviously not likely that the president would sign those.

The president so far today has been quiet on Twitter, perhaps uncharacteristically so. Yesterday though, we heard him loud and clear. He was making threats to close the entire border between the United States and Mexico. The president making that threat if he doesn't get his border wall. The question there is how serious that threat is considering the tremendous ramifications we would see to America's economy if the border were shut down not to mention a stock market that has been slumping.

Further the president was talking about going back to the days of pre- NAFTA. As you know the president has long railed against that trade deal with Mexico, Canada, and the United States. It's uncertain if the president was mentioning or suggesting that the United States would undo the USMCA, the new NAFTA that he helped to negotiate with those countries and has bragged about for some time.

The president clearly frustrated. Likely to be alone here at the White House for the holidays. We are refreshing our Twitter feeds to see what else he has to say Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: Yes, so are we. Boris Sanchez, thanks so much.

PAUL: You know the shutdown is affecting thousands of federal workers who aren't going to be getting a paycheck this pay cycle and they're taking to social media to talk about what they're worried about, how they're going to pay their bills and we want to read some of those to you.

BLACKWELL: Yes, this federal worker Tweets, let's put it up on the screen. "We are both veterans, husband has 20 years of service with 4 combat tours. We will not be able to pay our mortgage if this persists."

PAUL: For this federal worker paying medical expenses is a worry saying, "My insurance premium is $600 per month and my son's insulin and pump supplies are an additional $600 per quarter. Barely making it. Now I'll be going to work ... paid in the future."

BLACKWELL: And from another federal worker. I'm a furloughed Fed. I spent the day calling the banks for the mortgage and car loan, the electric company, the gas company, the credit card company. I have some savings so I'll be OK for a bit, won't be buying the new car to replace the 17-year-old Toyota now.

PAUL: And one more here. Got things for Christmas that I'm not unpacking and receipts are in my purse so I can return if needed for grocery money.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk now with Tony Reardon, National President of the National Treasury Employees Union.

PAUL: Thank you so much for being with us Tony. I want to read a quote from you. This was in the "Daily Harold" of Chicago and it mirrors much of what we just read. You said, "I've had members come to me saying they're returning holiday and Christmas presents they bought because they're worried a about paying rent. Congress should be doing everything in its power to get the government up and running again." With that said, what are you hearing from people who have no idea how long this is going go on?

TONY REARDON, NATIONAL PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL TREASURY EMPLOYEES UNION: Well what I'm hearing -- first all of thank you for having me on. I'm hearing a great deal from our members who have a great deal of anxiety, they have a lot of fear and candidly they have a great deal of anger and that's certainly to be understood. You know what I'm also hearing is that folks are very upset that they have been kind of cast in the middle of a fight, not of their creation, and that they do not have the power to resolve.

They're fearful of not being able to pay their mortgage, to pay their rent, to pay the college tuition bill for their children and they want Congress to do their job; Congress and the Administration to do their job. So there's a great deal of anxiety and fear out there. I think one good story - it's an unfortunate story but one that I think is worth hearing is we had an individual let us know that recently his wife died.

He is unable at this time because of this shutdown, to pay for her headstone and said at the tail end of his commentary to us that he is brokenhearted over that. And you know, that I think in some ways kind of encapsulates what this is - what's going on and what's happening to federal workers. Our federal workers do a great service to this country and to be treated the way that they are is indeed unfortunate.

BLACKWELL: That is terrible that man can't pay for a headstone for his wife. Tony, I want your reaction to a tweet that came out in a link to templates from the office of personnel management in which they offered sample letters that furloughed workers could send to the creditors, to potentially their landlords, the mortgage companies and suggesting that may be you could do some carpentry work or paint somewhere in the building in lieu of paying a portion of your rent. What do you make of the suggestion to call your personal attorney if you're having troubles?

REARDON: You know what, I think it's laughable. I think it's unfortunate. I think it's disgusting candidly. In fact I heard from one of our members who is a CBP officer who indicated to me yesterday, "Yes maybe what I'll do is I'll work my shift," because she is required to work right now through this shutdown though she's not being paid. She said, "Maybe I can just go ahead and work my shift and talk to my landlord after I get off of my shift and see if I can go do painting or some carpentry work or something else that maybe I can use to try to reduce my rent."

I got to it tell you to treat federal employees this way and to tell them that somehow they should not have the dignity that they should already have by being federal employees and doing the work that they do to not provide them the dignity and the respect, to provide them the pay that they have earned and remember - so you have federal employees who are working and aren't being paid and you've got other federal employees who are not working but want to be working and they're not being paid. So this entire situation candidly is entirely unfortunate and it's wrong. It's wrong to treat human beings this way.

PAUL: You brought up dignity and it hit me in that moment when we were reading tweet from somebody who said I've contacted my utility companies. I've contacted my mortgage company to see if they can work with them. Are you getting indication Tony, that people are doing that and are they helping? I mean a lot of businesses will not make amends - will not make provisions for these people because they're a business. But do you see any moments of kindness?

REARDON: Well, I can tell you that I suspect there may be some out there. I'm not hearing about those moments of kindness.

PAUL: You're not?

REARDON: What I'm hearing about is moments of unkindness from Congress and the administration directed at these federal employees. In my view federal employees who -- remember sign on to do the work - the important work of the American people should not suffer the indignity of having to go to a website and download a form letter that somehow should be able to be used with their mortgage company or their car loan company to try to save them from defaulting on their mortgage or their rent payment or whatever. It should not - federal employees should not have to encounter that. It's just absolutely wrong. BLACKWELL: And Tony during this shutdown, the president reaffirmed

yesterday that there will be no pay raise for federal employees in 2019. That happens while people aren't sure when they're going to get paid at all.

REARDON: That's exactly right. The executive order was issued late yesterday and in my view really what it did was pour salt in the wound that is already there. So not only are we not going to pay you through the shutdown and who knows how long that's going to last, but once you do start working in 2019, you are not deserving of a pay increase is the message that's being given to federal workers at a time when we hear nothing out of this administration but that the economy is doing great and we all know that private sector wages are on the rise. But yet federal workers are not being provided a pay increase. It is wrong.

PAUL: Tony Reardon. We appreciate you taking the time to be with us. Thank you.

REARDON: Thank you, very much.

BLACKWELL: In his own words a guest recalls the moment he was kicked out of a hotel for talking on the phone. An incident his attorney describes as calling his mother while black.



PAUL: Seventeen minutes past the hour and Portland's mayor is condemning an incident where a black man was kicked out of a hotel lobby for talking on his phone with his mother. Ted Wheeler Tweeted, no one should be treated this way and I hope this serves as a catalyst for necessary changes that address the systemic nature of discrimination in all forms.

BLACKWELL: CNN Correspondent Paul Vercammen has the latest on what happened and the fallout from the incident. Paul.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi, Victor, Jermaine Massey says he returned from a concert, went back to his DoubleTree hotel, found a quiet place in the lobby to call a family member concerning an emergency and then he says the security guard starting harassing him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want this P. R. issue, Earl(ph)? Do you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Portland police will be here in a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Call them. I'm waiting. They're coming why? Why are they coming?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Escorting you off the property.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because why and I'm staying here?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh OK, I'm staying here. I have a hotel. I didn't do anything to you. I'm sitting over here taking a phone call.


VERCAMMEN: And Massey said he had the evidence he was a guest, he showed them the card key envelope with the date on it and his room number. It didn't work. They still called Portland police, police escorted Massey up to his room and he was kicked out. Now Massey's lawyers say the next step will be a strategy that involves both a political possibility and a litigation possibility. They say their client is overwhelmed and one thing he does not want this to happen to anybody else.

Interesting in all this, the lawyers also say that Massey has Justice Department experience in both human resources with a specialization in discrimination. He also works for Amazon right now in human resources. As for the hotel, it issued a statement, essentially an apology, saying it was sorry and it wanted to sit down and talk to Massey about all this. Here at CNN we also reached out to the two employees who were responsible for kicking Massey out and they have not returned our phone calls. Back to you now, Christi, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Paul, thank you and Don Lemon interviewed Jermaine Massey, on "CNN Tonight" and here's how he described what happened.


JERMAINE MASSEY, DOUBLETREE GUEST THROWN OUT WHILE MAKING A CALL: I was approached by the security guard that you see in the video, and he asked me was I a guest at the hotel and I affirmed and told him yes. Shortly thereafter he stood there and he said, you know, what room number are you staying in? I told him, I don't know the room number. And then at some point I showed him my room key, and he continued to harass me and ask me questions on what my room number was. And from there, I told my mom I would call her back and I started recording the incident.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So you ended up eventually leaving the hotel, right?

MASSEY: Yeah, I left the hotel.

LEMON: You said you could have gone to jail if you responded differently, right?

MASSEY: Yes. Absolutely. They gave me two options when the police arrived; I asked them what were my opportunities here? They told me I could either stay and ignore their requests and be arrested. Or I could comply and go pack up my room and leave the hotel. And ignore their requests and be arrested. Or I could comply and go pack up my room and leave the hotel.

LEMON: So Greg, what have you heard from the hotel about this incident?

GREG KAFOURY, ATTORNEY FOR JERMAINE MASSEY: I've heard corporate public relations and corporate gobbledygook. We've asked them please explain in writing publically why this man was approached, why was he interrogated? Why was he trespassed? Why did you call him in your initial response a security threat? And we've not had a straight answer from them. I anticipate we're going to get a straight answer when we put some people under oath.

LEMON: But the employee, the people you claimed harassed him or racially harassed him, they have been put on leave, correct?

KAFOURY: Yeah, it doesn't mean much. What we're looking at is policy. Why is a security guard deciding to exclude anybody from a public place in an open hotel in the lobby? Why is he targeting this guy? Why, when he says I'm a guest here does he have to answer that question? Why when he shows a key is he still being harassed? There's something going on here that has to do with policy.


BLACKWELL: Well again two hotel employees have been placed on leave and DoubleTree Portland issued this statement on Twitter, "We will take appropriate measures to ensure this does not happen again. We have a zero tolerance stance on discrimination of any kind.

Two more arrests after a manhunt for an alleged cop killer in California. Last night, friends an family held a vigil for Corporal Ronil Singh. He was killed during a traffic stop on the day after Christmas in Newman, California. The new father was a immigrant from Fiji who dreamed of becoming a police officer. Yesterday the suspect, Gustavo Perez Arriaga, surrendered to police. Seven others had been arrested include including his girlfriend and his brother. They're accused of helping Arriaga hide from police.

PAUL: The Environmental Protection Agency proposes as new rule that can have a big impact on the air you breathe. We'll talk about it. Stay close.



PAUL: So glad to have you with us here. Twenty-seven minutes past the hour right now I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: So there's a new government finding on coal power plants and it says it could lead to more toxins in your air. The Environmental Protection Agency proposing new rules on regulating hazardous air pollutants and the new rules would change how the EPA determines the benefits of limiting some emissions. It could also make it tougher for the agency to create new regulations. Essentially the EPA now says the current formula from the Obama Administration is too costly to justify. Environmental activists say the dramatic change -- first reported by the way in the "New York Times," could do irreparable harm to public safety.

BLACKWELL: Joining us now to provide some context on this, Bloomberg White House Reporter, Toluse Olorunnipa, and former Office of Government Ethic director, Walter Shaub. Gentlemen welcome back to the show.

Toluse let me start with you and the significance of this proposed rule change, we've got 60 days for comments, beyond specifically the emissions, the mercury what this means potentially for the EPA and the health of the American people?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, BLOOMBERG WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, this is a very significant new ruling coming out of the Trump Administration, really rolling back something that the Obama Administration did that they saw as one of their signature achievements for protecting the environment and also protecting the health of Americans who could be affected by the various pollutants.

The Obama Administration did a little bit of a change when it came to calculating the cost of these various regulations and they believed that the new rules that they put in place would have saved thousands of lives.

Now the Trump Administration has come in and said that the Obama Administration was being a little bit too fast and loose with the data and with the calculations and that these various rules were way too costly and costing the coal industry too much money and not having as much benefit. So this is a major win for the coal industry. It shows that the EPA, even after the era of Scott Pruitt is continuing to roll back regulations and roll back environmental protections and move full speed ahead with a pro industry stance that the Trump Administration embraced from its first day in office and this is a sign that this is going to continue even as acting administrator - acting administration Andrew Wheeler, former lobbyist for industry takes the role that was once held by Scott Pruitt.

BLACKWELL: And let's talk about this Acting Administration Wheeler, Walter because Murray Energy Corporation stands to benefit significantly from this rule change and Wheeler worked as a long-time lawyer and lobbyist for that country. For the critics who say that this is just a coal guy making good for the coal companies. You say what?

WALTER SHAUB, FORMER OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS DIRECTOR: Well I think there's two ways to look at it. On the one hand I think it's very concerning as a citizen to see this kind of thing happening. It puts us all at risk. But you also have to step back and realize that elections have consequences and that when you elect somebody who runs on a pro-coal platform you're going to get regulations that are coal- friendly.


So from a political perspective this is something that gets worked out in the electoral process. Where ethics comes in is if you have individuals working on these things who are connected to the companies that are going to directly benefit from it. Unfortunately the ethics rules in our federal government are very weak and you can have somebody who used to be a lobbyist, used to be an industry executive come in and make decisions for an industry that they've spent their life representing and possibly even ultimately go back to them and reap the rewards of their actions.

So I think some of this is the consequence of lax ethics rules in terms of who's involved. But to be fair again, I think that if it wasn't one individual, they'd find another who maybe didn't has a direct a connection and simply agree and so that's why I think it's important to recognize that elections have consequences and if you don't like them you can get out and do something to change that.

BLACKWELL: Walter, let's switch to the shutdown now. And I just discussed a few moments ago with a union representative for treasury employees, this tweet from the Office of Personnel Management in which they suggest you should contact your landlord and say can I clean the carpets or fix the banister for a cut of my rent or send one of these letters in or contact your personal attorney as if hundreds of thousands of federal employees have personal attorneys. What's your take on the way in which the office is handling this, the tone of the it?

SHAUB: Yes, it's just completely tone deaf. I mean the Office of Personnel Management is a human resources agency. Last I checked they were not plumbing experts or carpentry experts or paint experts. Nor were they experts in negotiating for relief from rent or other financial obligations. So they're offering this advice that a bunch of pointy headed bureaucrats sat around in a room and wrote up and it really kind of rubs salt in the wounds of federal employees who are suffering right now.

You've got federal employees, particularly in D.C. where both family incomes come from federal employment and they don't have an income to fall back on and they've set up their life in a way that they expected to be able to pay a certain rent at a certain time. Telling them go hat in hand and act like deadbeats and say to your landlord can I have a break on the rent? Haven't you always wanted a butler? Maybe I could help with that. And of course many of these people are still working full days of work and having to come home and try to plead, can I help out around the building and stay up all night to try to do that to earn some relief on my rent which of course isn't going to be complete. There's no way they could do enough to actually earn. So it's just silliness from an agency that's completely out of touch with the crisis that's going on and it's not reassuring.

BLACKWELL: You bring up in the D.C. area both incomes come from the federal government across the country with one income families with one person bringing in money for their household, that may be all they have. Quickly to you Toluse, conservative outlets are pointing out that Nancy Pelosi is on vacation in Hawaii while the president is at the White House cancelling his trip to Mar-A-Largo, not going to the New Year's Eve celebration at his beach resort. Does that jeopardize any advantage that democrats might have in the optics of this battle?

OLORUNNIPA: It really depends on what happens over the next several days. President Trump had said that he's going to stay in the White House and they've been trumpeting that and talking about how the president cancelled his vacation. Now we do know that the president has spent a lot of time on the golf course over the past couple of years. That is Mar-A-Largo resort so he's spent a lot of time on vacation himself but the democrats have the opportunity once they take the gavel to pass a clean funding bill and if they do that I think that changes the narrative and it puts the ball back in the court of republicans and the president to decide whether to open the government after January 3rd.

BLACKWELL: Toluse Olorunnipa and Walter Shaub. Thank you both. Christi.

SHAUB: Thanks.

OLORUNNIPA: Thank you.

PAUL: OK, so take a minute and think about it, who you would put on the list of most admired women of 2018. Well there is such a list and they have some very interesting top five, let's put it that way. We're going to talk more about it with you in a moment.



BLACKWELL: The new CNN original film, "Love Gilda" uses special access to Radner's diaries, letters and home videos to tell her story in her words. Here's a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Gilda Radner, her voice and her writing. "First and foremost above everything else my main priority is that I'm a girl. I've never wanted to be anything else. I'm fascinated with boys but I never wanted to be one." I agree Gilda.

"To be a girl and be funny means you have to sacrifice a lot of things because of your loud mouth."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Being neurotic is the only subject I didn't have to research." Yes.

MAYA RUDOLPH, SATURDAY NIGHT CAST MEMBER: "I can't even begin to imagine how I got famous. It seemed like I just took the next job and it seemed millions of people were watching me do it." UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Maybe you do know me or maybe you don't or maybe

you heard of me but never saw me or maybe you used to know me but don't know me anymore. But one time in my life I was famous and seemed like everyone knew me."


PAUL: Lisa Dapolito, the director of "Love Gilda" with us now. Lisa, thank you so much. Tell us something about her that maybe we don't know that we'll learn from this documentary.

LISA DAPOLITO, DIRECTOR OF "LOVE GILDA": Gilda was an amazing writer and she documented much of her life. And even in the darkest of her journal entries, there's always a sense of light and a sense of humor. That I think is so inspiring. How Gilda really could find a rainbow even in even the darkest of times.

BLACKWELL: You know I was planning to ask a different question before seeing that clip, but what we saw there, I wonder if you learn she had challenges navigating fame?

DAPOLITO: I think in her professional life she was 100 percent confident and she could play with the toughest of comedians and always hold her own. I think it was in her personal life that she really struggled and the struggles she has had were many of the struggles we have and so I think Gilda never felt beautiful. She was very insecure in her relationships with men but I think as a performer she was just really, really solid and loved what she was doing.

PAUL: What did you learn? What did you think stuck with you as you put all of this together and read though her letters?


DAPOLITO: I wish I could do it but I wish I could find that rainbow. I wish I could find the light that Gilda could find. Even when she was struggling with her eating disorders and in her journals would talk about her struggles, there's always a sense of humor and she was funny. You always wonder if people are funny in real life and from what everyone told me Gilda was really funny and in her journals and her audio recordings, she was a different and unique person.

BLACKWELL: Looking forward to watching this documentary. Lisa DaPolito, thank you so much for spending a couple minutes with us. "Love, Gilda" premiers New Year's Day, 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

PAUL: Lisa, thank you so much.

Up next Michelle Obama is the most admired woman on the 2018 new pole by Gallup. But oh, it's the other top five that's interesting as well. Stay close.


PAUL: So now a look at the women Americans admire most. A new Gallup poll reveals Former First Lady Michelle Obama is topping the list this year. She beat another former First Lady, Hillary Clinton who held the spot for 17 years. Oprah Winfrey came in second. The first - current First Lady Melania Trump and Queen Elizabeth both made the top five. Alice Stewart, CNN Political Commentator and Republican Strategist with us now as well as Kate Andersen Brower, CNN Contributor and Author of "First Women."

Ladies, thank you much. First and foremost, Kate what's interesting at this poll is it's open-ended question. People get to put in the names; they don't have names to choose from. Why do you think so many of the names come from the political arena?

lady and melania trump both made the top five. CNN political commentator and strategist with us now. As well as cnn contributor and author of "first women. Dwaets what's interesting is this open-ended question. They don't have names to choose from. Why do you think somany of the names come from the political arena?

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's a great question and I don't really know. I think it's fascinating that Michelle Obama is kind of a celebrity in her own right and I think that we see politics kind of veering into the world of celebrity now too. I thought it was really interesting that Hillary Clinton and Melania Trump, who are two really polarizing figures now tied in the poll. But obviously Michelle Obama is very much in the public eye promoting her new book out there a lot at this moment.

PAUL: OK, so you've just led into my next question because that's something that I think stuck out to a lot of people who are reading about this. Melania Trump and Hillary Clinton tied at number three essentially in the top five here; two opposite sides of the spectrum obviously Alice. What do you make of that tie? Not to say that both of them shouldn't have been in there. Certainly you can imagine that they would be but the fact that they garnered the same amount of votes?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it goes to show that certainly Hillary Clinton still is someone that people look up to and as this poll indicates, admired. But Melania Trump herself is somebody who is real a making her way on her own timeline with her own voice and becoming more welcome on the world stage. And what she's doing as First Lady I think certainly deserves to be admired and it will certainly grow as she grows into this role. What she's done with the "Be Best" campaign and her work as First Lady on many fronts. She has visited victims of shootings and certainly working with the opioid crisis. She is growing into this role and I expect her voice and her name and her recognition in this poll and others to grow as her time in the White House grows.

PAUL: A lot of people say a woman of grace, no doubt about it. Both Obama's top the list here we need to point out because there's a male version of this of course, the Most Admired Man of 2018. So we've got Michelle Obama on the women's side in the number one place. Barak Obama, number one and then look at that, right behind him Donald Trump with 13 percent. Not a big span there. What do you make of that Kate? BROWER: Again, it speaks to how polarized this country is. It's kind of amazing to see the two of them in the top two places and you have people who are huge supporters, democrats obviously for Obama, republicans for Trump; it's a very divided moment in our history.

I was really intrigued not to see either Laura Bush or Barbara Bush on those polls because the Bush women are often the most well-liked First Ladies. So that was surprising to me because you see George W. Bush there on that list. I would say those are two names that kind of - especially Barbara Bush sort of popped out at me and Laura Bush too. These are two women who are really - I think because they were very traditional First Ladies and so they were really beloved when they were holding the office.

STEWART: And Christi, I think on the men's side it's important to note, it's great to see a split ticket virtually at the top with President Obama at the top. My understanding this being a popular vote, that's what led to Obama's victory. I understand Donald Trump won the electoral college vote on this poll. Just kidding. But the key is this just goes to show that people look up to political figures. They're elected officials and I think admiration is something that crosses partisan bounds and people look up to leaders who stand up for what they believe in and this poll clearly demonstrates that.

PAUL: Kate, is there any indication the meaning of this poll. I mean how much at the end of the day does it tell us?

BROWER: You know, I don't know. The fact that Hillary Clinton was at the top of the list for so long and yet lost the election, I'm not sure that admiration coincides with popularity because obviously there are lot of people who really viscerally don't like Hillary Clinton for whatever reasons. So I don't know. I think admiration is something really interesting and it has to do with what Alice was saying. I think that you admire people who take risks and both Donald Trump and Barak Obama are two people who firmly believe in their beliefs. So I think it's really interesting to see - to see these two very different men at the top of that list.

PAUL: It must be nice too Alice for our current First Lady. I mean she is criticized for everything from Christmas trees to the clothes she wears. How do you think she's receiving this?

STEWART: She doesn't let that get her down. She is focused on what is important to her. Certainly being a mother to her son is her top priority and being a wife to her husband is key but she doesn't get distracted by this and certainly she's not sitting around staring at the polls and seeing how she fairs in the latest polls. And she does things in her own way and her own timeline and I think it's important to also note the "Be Best" initiative is great with regard to encouraging kids live healthy lives and constructive social media behavior and this is something - the beginning of what I see as a long list of initiatives that she'll focus on.

PAUL: All right, Alice Stewart, Kate Andersen Brower, thank you for taking time for us this morning. STEWART: Thanks Christi.

[08:50:00] PAUL: Thank you ladies.

BLACKWELL: A lavish royal wedding, the death of the Queen of Soul, and diversity at the box office. CNN Contributor Nischelle Turner takes a look at the top entertainment stories of 2018.


ROSEANNE BARR, ACTOR ON THE ROSEANNE BARR SHOW: Jackie, would you like the take a knee?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: (voice over) A TV star booted off her own show getting crazy rich at the box office and Kanye's White House romance. Here's a look at the top entertainment newsmakers in 2018.

Number eight, Ariana Grande, "Thank You, Next." The lyrics say it all. Ariana Grande's newest single is a deeply personal look back at 2018, a year filled with young love, breakups and heartache but "Thank You, Next," capped off she says one of the best years of her career and the fans agree. Ariana's fourth album, "Sweetener" skyrocketed to the number one spot on the BillBoard charts. On Spotify she broke the global record for the biggest opening week by a female artist and her star-studded music video became the most watched premier on YouTube.

Number seven, pay and equality in Hollywood. Hollywood fights to close the gender pay gap. At the Golden Globes stars wore black to support the "Times Up" movement and raise awareness on issues like pay inequality.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're here standing in solidarity with women everywhere.

TURNER: This came on the heels of an announcement from E! News host Catt Sadler who says she left the network after learning her male cohost was making nearly double her salary. Just days later we learned Michelle Williams was paid $1,000 to reshoot scenes from "All The Money in the World," while costar Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million. Wahlberg pledged support for Williams, donating the entire sum of his payment to the "Times Up" legal defense fund.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight Bill Cosby once nicknamed America's dad is convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.


TURNER: Number six, Cosby and Weinstein's woes. America's dad, behind bars.

(BEGIN VIDEO) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Cosby, any comments sir?


TURNER: Bill Cosby was found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home, sentenced up to 10 it years in prison and will be classified as a sexually violent predator for life. Cosby's case was the first celebrity sexual assault trial, conviction and sentencing since the start of the #Me Too Movement. But another industry heavyweight, Harvey Weinstein, was arrested and charged with rape and sex abuse from incidents dating back to 2004. He faces dozens of additional accusations but denies all allegations of quote, "nonconsensual sex." Investigations are underway in the U.S. and abroad.

Number five, Kimyea board the Trump train. Kim and Kanye dive head first into politics. First up Kim's plea for President Trump to commute the sentence of first-time nonviolent drug offender Alice Johnson.

After a trip to the White House and some words of advocacy on Twitter, Trump commuted Johnson's sentence. She was freed from prison after serving 21 years. Meanwhile Kanye's bromance with the president flourished.


KANYE WEST, ARTIST: I love this guy right here.


TURNER: They've admired each other since 2014 but yeezy (ph) sealed the deal during a bizarre visit with the president to discuss prison reform. The wild antics went on and on leaving Trump speechless.




URNER: Number four, Aretha Franklin dies.

ARETHA FRANKLIN, ARTIST: R-E-S-P-E-C-T, that what it means to me.

TURNER: Saying goodbye to a legend. Aretha Franklin died at her home in Detroit from pancreatic cancer in August. In the wake of her death, thousands of well-wishers lined the streets to honor her life and career. And her famous fans were just as sorry to say goodbye from Stevie Wonder to Jennifer Hudson and Ariana Grande and also Smokey Robinson. It was a tribute fit for a queen. Aretha Franklin was 76 years old.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breaking news, the top rated television comedy of the year is now cancelled.


TURNER: Number three Roseanne's reboot drama. The show was booted off ABC in May after the show's star made racist comments about former White House aide Valerie Jarrett on Twitter and as they say in Hollywood, the show must go on. Just months later the network announced the show would return without its namesake as "The Conners."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CHARACTER: Do we have to keep talking about death all the time? It just keeps reminding me of grandma.


TURNER: The spin off which chronicles life after the sudden death of Roseanne Conner premiered to 10.5 million viewers, that's down 35 percent from the original reboot.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My son, it is your time.


TURNER: Number two, box office diversity. Diversity ruled at the box office. Marvel's "Black Panther" smashed records bringing over $1.3 billion worldwide.


Staring a mostly black cast and helmed by a black director, this superhero flick resonated with theater-goers everywhere.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So your family's rich?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're comfortable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's exactly what a super rich person would say.


TURNER: And social media favorite, "Crazy Rich Agents" exceeded industry expectations making over $237 million globally. It's the first major studio film to feature a predominantly Asian cast since the "Joy Luck Club" but that's not all. Ticket sales show the (inaudible) became the highest grossing romantic comedy in the U.S. in 10 years.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The countdown to the royal wedding is very nearly over, Don.


TURNER: And number one, a royal wedding. A story book wedding for Prince Harry and Actress Meghan Markle. The royal couple tied the knot in a lavish ceremony at Windsor Castle, the dress, the ring, the fashion and the fascinators. And of course the Queen and a Princess. No royal wedding is complete without a star studded guest list. George and Amal Clooney, Serena Williams, Oprah, and the Beckhams, but the Duke and Duchess had even more happy news to share, a royal baby is on the way due in 2019.

Well the year did end clouded in controversy. Kevin Hart stepped down as the host of the Oscars after homophobic tweets from his past surfaced online so the question is, who's going to step in? Well, we will find out very soon. Nischelle Turner, for CNN, Los Angeles.


PAUL: So grateful to have you with us here on this Saturday Morning. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell.